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Apr 18, 2014

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Beer Dave makes it 1,000

Beer Dave On Oct. 10, 1999, Dave Gausepohl -- known to many simply as "Beer Dave" -- visited his 1,000th brewery in the United States when he sampled the wares at Twisted Pine Brewing in Boulder, Colo. When Dave started his tours in the late 1970s the number of breweries in the nation was shrinking and would fall to 80 in 1983. Since then more than 1,000 new ones have opened and Dave's done his best to visit every one of them.

He began working in the beer business when he was still in college, then spent nine years as a brewer at Oldenberg Brewery in Fort Mitchell, Ky., beginning in 1986. He helped run its well known Beer Camp and became familiar to many campers as the Beer Marshall. He later was part of the project that turned the long-vacant Bavarian Brewery in Covington, Ky., into a catherdal of beer, with a giant package store, brewery and brewpub.

He took a few minutes from busy beer days -- he now works by day as the Craft Beer Sales manager for Beer House Distributors of Newport, Ky., is a voracious collector of breweriana and even finds time to answer some of the questions readers send to Ask Real Beer -- to look back on 20-plus years of brewery visits.

Real Beer: What was the first brewery you visited and when?

Beer Dave: The first brewery I visited was the George Wiedemann Brewery in Newport, Kentucky in 1977. My father new one of their salesmen and set up a tour of the facility.

RB: Why did you go?

BD: I was a can collector and since this was a brewery owned by G. Heileman there were plenty of labels packaged in cans. We sampled Wiedemann and Royal Amber in their Beer Garden after the tour. I still remember how good the Royal Amber was to this day.

RB: Why have you visited so many?

BD: As a collector of breweriana I felt that the best way to have a tangible connection with the items in my collection was to physically visit the brewery. Plus breweries brew beer and offer samples of their work.
RB: What's your favorite thing about visiting breweries?
BD: After 1000 breweries most people assume that they are all the same. The one reason I like to visit these places is because nothing could be further from the truth. Each brewery has it's own personality. Even the chain brewpubs and sister plants of the mega brewers each have something different to offer.

At each visit I get a photo of the outside and the brew kettle when possible. Most people who show you around have an excitement like they are showcasing their children. I get to drink their version of the "Nectar of the Gods."

RB: What's your favorite brewery souvenier?
BD: While visiting in California, one of the early pioneers in the Micro movement was using a wooden beer case as a tool box. When he realized I was a serious collector he let me have it. The case was used by New Albion and had their ship logo silk screened on it as well as the word porter handwritten on each end in permanent marker. A true treasure from the first microbrewery. This item is still proudly displayed in my home.
RB: How often do you taste beer at a brewery visit?
BD: Less than 50 of the breweries which I have visited have I not been able to try their beers. At the micros and brewpubs, the sampler platter has become one of my staples.
RB: Do you have a favorite brewery (or five)?
BD: The older regional breweries have always left a lasting impression. Yuengling, August Schell, Straub in St. Mary's, Penn., Geo. Wiedemann in Newport, Ky., Walter's in Eau Claire and Point in Steven's Point, Wis. are some great examples of this. Any place that brews beer is a special place and I could never choose a favorite among the first 1000.
RB: Are there other landmarks? Like Brewery No. 100, 500? Or dates? How many countries? How many breweries in the U.S.?
BD: I really did not keep track of dates on the first 600 or so breweries. From June 1994 through October 1995 I traveled to almost 300 across the US That is still to this day my personal best. I maintain a personal database with a longtime collector friend, of all US Breweries that have operated since January 1, 1977 to the present day. We chose 1977 because that is the year that New Albion began brewing in Sonoma. Once we first compiled this list I started to keep a running tally of my brewery visits.

As of 10-21, 1999 I have been to 1,002 US breweries and 12 in Canada. Since a brewery tourist does not have the sponsors like a pro athlete or a NASCAR Team, I have not yet made it out of North America. I will gladly sew patches on my jacket, wear the right hat or shoes for an all expense paid trip to Europe.

RB: Have you seen the overall quality of beer improve during the time you've been visiting breweries?
BD: The level of beer styles has grown over the last 20 years. The quality was always there. It was just not well known outside of certain regions. The craft beer movement has raised the education level of the average consumer. This raising of the bar has taken us from "crowd pleasing Velveeta" to "Savory Stiltens and Sharp Cheddars." We are reliving the history of the proliferation of breweries that occurred from 1840 to 1890.
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